A/N: Hey guys, been a while! Just wanted to thank you all for being so amazing while you wait for me to finish up BVK. Your patience, encouragement, and enthusiasm has been incredible. I've been working on some outtakes for you while you wait for the big stuff - this is part one of two from 2006 (the year Edward left to go on tour).

Also we switch up POV's here, so keep an eye out for that ;)

Thanks so much for reading!


Summer, Fall, Winter 2006

EPOV

Step off the stage and onto a bus. No sleep, we're supposed to be working on a song. Beer and empty bottles, border crossings and sunrise, blink awake to find a pencil in my hand, pressed to a blank piece of paper. No sleep, working on a song. Rest stop, bathroom, food. Fuel up. Jam with the acoustics, crawl under a blanket for an hour, bus stops, sound check, show. Looking for her face in the crowd. Screams and autographs, and smiles for the cameras. Off the stage and onto the bus. Can't sleep, we need a song. Drink. Drink. Drunk. Tired. Song. Write.

Rolled bills and cracked mirrors. Polished world filled with endless lyrics. Pages and pages of her. Sunrise and sunset. Finish two songs, bus stops, new crowd, more beers, autographs, we should eat. Drink more instead. Missing her. Aching. Line. Alive. Wake up in a bed alone, puke, shower, write. Can't write. Pacing, aching, missing her. Can't handle missing her. One line, two, bus, show, party, day off, too wired to sleep. Missing… something. Numb. Tired. Can't sleep.

Screams. Autographs. Screams. Autographs. Smiles. Cameras. High.

Drugs, parties, Bella, low.

Recording, mixing, producers love the new tracks. Producers want more. Everyone wants more.

More everything.

Everything more.

More empty. Can't handle. Missing her.

Days, nights, faceless, endless.

Bus, hotel, stage, lights.

Over and over, again and again and again.

They say wake up.

I say I'm not sleeping.

Only missing.

Low.

Everything.

Lower, lowest.

Nothing.

.x.

Fall 2006

Jasper POV

"Son of a bitch." When I hear the click of the voicemail pick up the call I'm making I let out a cry of frustration and whip my phone across the small hotel room. Ty dodges the flying phone as he waltzes through the door, an eyebrow cocked in amusement.

"Wassa matter, Whitlock?" he asks as he plops himself down on the bed and reclines back against the headboard. He lights the cigarette he's got pressed between his lips. "Smoke all the reefer in Germany last night or what?"

I narrow my eyes and round on him. "Where the fuck is Cullen?" I demand.

Ty shrugs as he exhales, not fazed by my anger. "Dunno, man. Mark and I called it a night at – what – two, maybe. Ed was still givin' er. Last I saw he was with that singer for that chick band."

I feel myself relax ever so slightly. I know what band he's talking about – Cultess is what I think they call themselves. I had drinks with their manager last week. I let out a long breath, running my fingers through my hair. "What's her name?" I ask him.

"Fuck if I know. She's that little brunette. Decent tits, though." He takes a long drag of his cigarette and ashes on his pant leg. "The fuck do you care who Cullen went home with last night, anyway?"

"Because it's my job to keep track of you idiots," I growl in annoyance. "And our bus is leaving in an hour and Edward is nowhere to be found."

"Relax, Whitlock. He'll surface. Always does."

"I hope you're right," I mutter. Because though Ty may have a point, I can't shake the nagging feeling that somehow, this time it's different.

Shit, this time Cullen was different. He had a look in his eye last night that I've never seen before, and I've known him since we were still shitting our diapers on the playground. He was… out of control. By the time the headliners had wrapped up, I don't think Edward would have even been able to recognize his own reflection in the mirror they were cutting their lines on last night. He's a broken man trying to piece himself together with all the wrong tools – and I am the idiot who stands by and lets him.

And yeah, it's hard to watch him and not feel like a piece of shit. There hasn't been a day that's passed on this tour where I haven't wondered if we made the wrong call by going out on the road. Because with everything that's happened between him and Bella, Edward just hasn't been Edward since we left. He left that man behind somewhere, and I sure as fuck know it's not back home with Bella because I've kept in touch with Emmett and I know she's not all right either. E's killing himself over her, and fuck. I thought this tour was the right thing to do, but I'm beginning to realize that I don't know anything anymore.

"Look, Ty," I say as I let out a long breath. "We have to track him down." He's watching me carefully, and I think he's beginning to realize how damn serious I am.

"He's just not in a good place right now. And I… I talked to Emmett Cullen this morning. Bella had the baby last night." Ty's eyebrows fly up in surprise. "And no one could get a hold of Edward to give him the news. Now I'm not jumping to conclusions, but if Edward's not answering his phone for her, then he's not fucking answering for anyone."

"What'd she have?" Tyler asks and it takes me a second to realize that he's talking about Bella's baby. Edward and Bella's baby, I remind myself.

I scratch my head. "A boy… I think? They knew they were having a boy, right?"

Ty nods, all excited. "They can fuck that shit up sometimes. But dude. That's awesome! What'd they name him? And how's Bella doing? And the baby is healthy, yeah?"

I blink at him. "I… I don't know," I say. "I guess so. I didn't really ask."

Tyler blows out a breath. "Lot of good you are. E said something about them having some names picked out a while back, but I can't remember what one they decided on. I can't believe you didn't even ask, yo!"

"I was preoccupied when he called, all right?"

"Thinking about how the news would effect your golden ticket?" Ty snorts. "Whatever, man. You should get with it and send her some flowers or something from all of us."

"Sure…" I say slowly. Seems like the right thing to do, but I don't really think about that kind of shit.

"So did you happen to check his room, genius?"

"Huh?"

"For Edward. You checked his room, right?"

"Of fucking course I did," I snap, rolling my eyes. "He's not in there. By the looks of it, he didn't sleep there, either. His phone is nowhere to be found – and his voicemail box is full."

"Do you think that maybe…" Ty hesitates. "Maybe someone did get a hold of him, and he took off back home?"

I shake my head and find myself pacing around the small room. "I've got his passport, and besides, I talked to Emmett half an hour ago and no one had heard from him. The record exec and producer are on they way out to meet us in Frankfurt. They'll be landing within the hour, and if Edward isn't with us when we show up… well, there's a good chance we'll all be flying back with them in the morning."

"Shit." I can tell by the look on Ty's face that the magnitude of the situation has finally hit him. He sits up slowly and stubs his cigarette out on the nightstand. "Look, I'll go ask around – maybe find that singer chick, see if he's still with her. There's no fucking reason to panic yet, man."

"Right," I scoff, shaking my head. Because seriously – only Cullen. Fuck.

I stop Ty before he leaves. "If you find him, don't… don't mention the baby, all right?"

"Jas—" he objects.

I cut him off. "If he doesn't know yet, I'll tell him after the show. And no pressure or anything but… you need to blow these guys away tonight, and there's no fucking way Edward will be in any shape to put on a half-decent show if he's finds out about this."

"Dude, you don't know that. That is such a dick move," Ty says, shaking his head in disgust. "He's here because of that baby."

I look around the room. "Here? Really? Well, I'm not willing to take the chance. He already missed the birth of this kid. What's another twelve hours of being in the dark?"

"You know I ought to just knock you out myself right now, because I guarantee E is going to when he finds out you kept this from him."

I shrug helplessly, because chances are he will try and clock me when he finds out about this – it's something I'm sure he's wanted to do ever since Bella threw him out on his ass. It's not like I don't deserve it. In a voice that doesn't even sound like it belongs to me I say, "As long as we all have a job when he does, then it's fine by me."

"What about Bella? She's... fuck, dude. Girl's probably going out of her mind. You have to tell him."

I feel a tightness in my chest when I think about Bella, the girl I love like a sister, the one who counts on me to look out for the person she loves most in this entire world. She believes in me. She trusts me. It fucking hurts, knowing that I'm betraying another friend to be here, but it's not enough to change anything.

"I… I can't," I say, my voice cracking.

Ty looks kind of sad as he heads out of the room. "Fuck, Whitlock. I don't know what the hell happened to you, man. But it's like I don't even know you at all anymore."

When the door closes behind him, I pick my phone up off the floor and shake my head. "You and me both, brother," I mutter to no one at all.

.x.

Twenty minutes pass with still no word from Edward. After I sent Ty out on his mission, I tracked down the guy that manages Cultess to find out if he's seen his lead singer. Turns out she's MIA this morning also. I'm about to throw my phone across the room once again in frustration when the door swings open. I hold my breath, but release it when Mark sticks his head in the room, scratching at the beard he's been growing for the past few weeks.

"Yo," he calls toward me. "I just talked to Ty. You have any luck?"

I shake my head angrily. "The singer for Cultess hasn't checked in yet this morning either. I have a pretty good feeling they're together, somewhere."

"Yeah we haven't been able to find her. But their drummer says she saw Edward and her singer head out into the city last night when everybody else started turning in."

Fuck. I sit down on the edge of the bed and hang my head. I rub angrily at my temples, trying, trying, trying to not freak out. "Mark?" I ask finally without lifting my head.

"Yeah, buddy?" he says, and I hear the door close behind him as he creeps closer.

"What the hell was he on last night?" I look up at Mark and cringe, like it physically hurts me to have to ask him this. "That's just not… that's not Edward."

"I don't know," Mark says quietly as he paces toward the window. "You know I don't like to get mixed up in that shit… The only thing I know for sure is E was hell-bent on getting fucked up last night. And by the sounds of it, he succeeded."

"Yeah," I nod weakly. "Thanks."

Mark stands there awkwardly for a second, his eyes trained out the window. Fresh, crystal-white snow drifts past his reflection as it falls from the grey sky. "Oh, yeah," he says suddenly and spins to face me as he begins digging around in his pocket. "We found this in the room we were having drinks in last night." He produces Edward's cell phone and tosses it over to me.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," I groan as I stare down at the phone in my hands. "Please tell me he's at least tried to call it or something."

"Nada," Mark says. "I can't get into his voicemail, but all his missed calls and texts are from his family and from you, bro. I don't know what the fuck, man."

I feel my heart sink as I get to my feet. "I'm going for a walk," I say numbly.

"You think now is really the time for that?"

"I'm going to look for Edward, dickweed," I growl.

"All right, all right," Mark holds up his hands defensively. "Did you… did you call the… maybe try the hospitals?"

"Yeah," I say quietly, my chest getting heavier with each passing moment.

"Hey. We'll find him, all right?" Mark says, clapping my shoulder. "You take a left out of the lobby, and I'll grab Ty and we'll go right. I'll make sure Jamie keeps and eye out and lets us know if he comes back. We'll track him down, man. No worries."

I rub my eyes with the heels of my palms. "All right. Call me if you hear anything. And if you find him… don't tell him—"

"About the baby? Yeah, Ty told me." Marcus levels with me, ducking down slightly so we're eye-to-eye. "And if Cullen doesn't give you a black eye for pulling this shit, you can fucking bet I'll gladly do it."

"Deal," I agree weakly and Mark claps me once more on the shoulder, hard, as I grab my jacket and head out the door. I'm still trying to work the buttons on my jacket when the elevator deposits me on the ground floor. I rush through the sliding glass doors and into a flurry of snow – the wind is a bitter, dry cold and I tug up my collar to keep the chill from creeping down my neck. The streets are practically deserted, the peaceful Sunday morning scene a sharp contrast to the constricting panic in my chest. The odd car rumbles past, stirring the snowflakes that slither along the sidewalk as I light a cigarette midstride. The smoke mixed with my breath form a thick cloud that creeps along after me as I scan the streets.

I don't know what I expect to find. I poke my head into coffee shops and bakeries as I pass, my gaze skimming over the few patrons as I search for Edward's familiar mop of hair. But there's nothing. Nothing. No sign of him.

Where could he be?

I crush my second cigarette under my foot as I hurry down the sidewalk, feeling more desperate with each step. My toes are growing numb and my hands are shaking despite the warm, deep pockets of my jacket. I open my mouth, almost at the point where I'm desperate enough to stand in the middle of the road and scream his name, when I hear a voice from across the street.

"Hey! Hey, you! Black Velvet King guy, hold up a sec!"

I squint through the snow to see a small figure dart across the narrow, two-lane road. She's got her hands buried in the pockets of her sweater, the hood pulled up and her chin tucked into her chest. When she reaches me, she looks up, stamping her feet. She's older than I first thought – she moves with an almost child-like grace, but she's got black make-up smudged under her eyes and dark, unkempt hair framing her face around the hood.

"You," she says, her chin quivering. For a moment, I think that she's about to cry when I realize her teeth are chattering. She's freezing. "Y-your singer," she gets out.

I feel relief wash over me as I begin unconsciously unbuttoning my jacket. "You know where he is?" I ask and she nods. When I offer her my jacket, she pushes it away.

"Take it," I say adamantly, throwing it over her shoulders even though she shakes her head again. She shudders into its warmth, giving me a small smile of gratitude. I realize then, that I know her. She's the missing singer of Cultess.

"Where is he?" I ask, breathless.

She nods her head further down the street, "C-come on." Her teeth are still chattering, but she's looking less like a walking icicle.

"What happened to you?" I ask her as we walk.

"Alice," she grunts.

I frown. "Alice... happened to you?"

"My n-name," she says, "Is Alice."

"Oh. Jasper," I point to myself, "Is me. Er, my name. Is Jasper." I cringe, embarrassed by my lack of eloquence. I couldn't sound more like a caveman if I tried.

"I thought so," Alice says, blowing out a breath into her hands before shoving them back into the pockets of the jacket. "Thanks for the coat, Jasper. I wasn't really d-dressed for staying out all night."

I look at her sideways. Under the jacket, she's still wearing the tall black boots and short-ass shorts she must have worn on stage last night. No, she definitely wasn't dressed for staying out all night. Or for being outside at all, for the matter. "Are you going to be all right?" I ask.

She nods shortly. "I've lived in the desert my entire life – I'm not really wired for the snow. I prefer it in the pictures."

"No kidding." I try and put some emotion into my response, but it feels flat. All I can focus on is the fact that this girl, Alice, had to come looking for one of us. All I can think is that Cullen isn't capable of getting himself back to the hotel. All I can picture is the worst.

"Your friend," Alice says after a moment of silence, "Edward?"

I nod.

"He's in rough shape."

"What happened?"

She shrugs. "He wanted to go out, and I didn't want him to go alone. Anybody could see the kid was a mess. We ended up crashing at some party." Her voice gets a hysterical edge to it as she continues, "I wanted to call an ambulance when I couldn't wake him up this morning, but the buddy that owns the place wouldn't let me."

I pick up the pace, and Alice jogs beside me. "How far are we?"

"Couple more blocks," she pants.

I get Mark on the phone, letting him and Ty know we've found him and that I'm probably going to need a hand. They start heading the way Alice is leading me, and I promise to text them an address when I have one. When I hang up the phone and shove it back in the pockets of my jeans, I tilt my head toward Alice, hesitating before I speak. "What did he take?"

She swallows hard. "I don't know – there was a lot of shit going around last night. And look, I know what you're thinking, but I don't really make a habit of this, all right? I was pretty drunk last night, but I don't mess around with musicians."

She must see the skeptical look on my face, because she firmly insists, "It wasn't like that – he just looked like he needed a friend, that's all. I really don't do drugs, and I don't know what he was on last night. If I knew, I would tell you. I swear."

I'm silent for a moment before I look over at her and quietly say, "Thank you, Alice."

Her chin is quivering, and this time I don't think it's from the cold. "That kid is under a lot of pressure, you know. You might want to ease up before you lose him for good." She keeps calling him kid, like she's some wise old monk. But there's no way she can be much older than we are. Or maybe it's just because Edward always looks like such a lost little boy when he's messed up.

Alice closes her eyes for a moment, ducking her head against the wind as we walk. "He was dead set on self-destruction last night. I'm scared he might have succeeded."

"He'll be all right," I assure her quietly, though I really have no fucking clue. We both pick up our pace, like we're thinking the same thing.

When we finally reach the apartment, Alice lets us in. The door's unlocked and the apartment is seemingly empty, though I can hear movement from behind one of the closed doors off the main hallway and voices speaking in what I can only assume to be German. The place looks like a hurricane ripped through it – cups and bottles litter the floor and cover nearly every flat surface. I glance down and see a cup full of an eerily saturated pink drink sitting on a little table in the hallway, nestled next to some kind of half-dead potted vine. I pick up the cup and take a hesitant sniff, grimacing as I set the cup back down.

"Is that…?" Alice is watching me.

"Yeah. Were you guys partying with fifteen-year-olds last night or something?" I thought rappers and teenagers were the only ones moronic enough to drink cough syrup.

Alice shakes her head, muttering something under her breath that I don't catch. She leads me toward the living room, both of us stepping gingerly around empties and sticky puddles of spilled drinks. We find Edward slouched semi-upright on a torn, plaid sofa. His head is bowed lifelessly, his face so white it's unnerving. I shake him, feeling the panic I've been trying so hard to suppress rising in my chest. He groans, and Alice has a half-empty chip bowl ready for when he slumps forward and vomits.

"Jesus Christ," I curse, gripping his shoulder as he heaves.

"That's a good sign, right?" Alice asks, her gaze darting to mine. She's chewing her bottom lip as she holds the bowl in her trembling hands, still red from the cold.

I nod, but I'm no fucking doctor. I've never had to deal with this shit before. This isn't us. This isn't how we live. We drink, sure, and I love my weed, but Edward… Edward doesn't do this. Edward has never shown an interest in touching anything harder than pot. He's just that kind of guy.

Was, I remind myself as I look down at my friend. Was the kind of guy. Now look what you've stood by and watched him become.

"We've got to get him out of here," I say, eyeing the closed door in the hall. I don't know whose place we're in, but if they're the type of people that let shit like this go down and refuse to call for help, I have a feeling I don't want to meet them. "Cullen," I say sharply, once he's hopefully finished puking. I snap my fingers in front of his face. "Edward, look at me, man."

His open eyes stare past me, unfocused and vacant. "Edward," I say again, anger mingling with the panic rising in my voice. "Get the fuck up, man." I want to shake him, tell him, "Look at you. Today you became a father and this is how you fucking act." Maybe the kid is better off without him after all.

I swallow down the bile in my throat – it's making me sick, what we've all become. I'm dragging one of my best friends off some random couch in Hamburg, while his girlfriend/not-girlfriend, half a world away, just gave birth to the son I don't even want to tell him about. "Edward," I plead, pulling him forward enough that I can get his arm over my shoulders. I grunt as I haul him to his feet. He retches again, and Alice scrambles for the bowl. I exhale a sharp breath through my teeth.

"Go get us a cab," I tell Alice in as gentle of a voice as I can muster.

"You'll need help getting him downstairs," she argues.

"I texted Tyler and Mark the address – they shouldn't be too far behind us. Send them up when they get here." Alice eyes me for a moment before she nods and disappears around the corner. I grunt again as I adjust Edward's weight. He mumbles something incoherently, showing at least some sign of brain activity.

"All right, man," I mutter, "You gotta help me out here." He doesn't respond, but when I guide him forward he seems to remember how to put one foot in front of the other. We move slowly, but I somehow manage to get us to the hall and then out the door, all while supporting most of his weight. I eye the stairs as I stand on the landing, half tempted to shove him down and see if that knocks some sense into him.

"You stupid bastard," I hiss under my breath, only I don't know if it's directed at him or myself. I lean against the wall as I contemplate the stairs, wondering how in the hell I'm going to get us down there without breaking one or both of our necks.

"Edward," I say sharply, giving him a shake. "Can you get down those?" He shakes his head in response as he slumps against me.

"Great," I mutter, just as I hear heavy footsteps charging up the stairs towards me. A moment later Mark and Tyler round the corner.

"Oh, yo," Tyler stops in his tracks when he sees us. "He doesn't look so good."

"No shit," I say through gritted teeth.

Mark is silent as he wedges himself under Edward's other arm. "You got him?" he asks quietly and I nod.

We begin our descent, Edward's head hanging limply, bobbing with each step. He makes retching noises, and Tyler has to cover his mouth with his arm to stifle his own gags. It might even be funny if it weren't so completely not funny. Edward's legs keep buckling, like he's determined to drag us all down with him. Tyler guides us, eyeing us warily as he takes the stairs backwards. Making it down the narrow staircase and safely to ground level should feel like a victory, but instead we all grow more somber.

Alice is waiting when we finally make it outside, still wrapped up in my coat as she paces the street in front of a parked cab. She doesn't speak, just holds open the door as we shove Edward unceremoniously inside. The driver eyes us disapprovingly, shaking his head and muttering something in German. The only word I can pick out is "Americans" but it's enough. It's funny how our nationality can justify our actions, like people from all over the world don't make stupid mistakes.

There are too many of us to fit in the car, but Alice slides onto my lap in the backseat, like it's something we do all the time. She says something to the driver in what sounds like pretty damn good German. We roll away from the apartment that I hope to never see again in my life, Edward groaning next to me. Alice presses her hand to his forehead.

"He's warm," she frowns. "And probably dehydrated."

"We'll get some water into him on the bus." I stare out the window, wishing this gong show of a morning would end.

"Are you like a doctor or something?" Tyler asks, twisting around in the front seat.

Alice laughs. She's small, but she still has to duck her head so it isn't bumping the roof as the car crawls down the snow-covered road. "No, but it's pretty basic stuff. Alcohol plus vomiting equals dehydration."

Tyler eyes her. "What were you doing with Cullen last night?"

"Looking out for him," she answers matter-of-factly, "Or trying, at least." She doesn't say, "When his friends didn't," but the implication is there.

"Yeah, sure," Tyler scoffs. "You did a real great job of 'looking out for' him. Feel free to come 'look out for' me next time you're bored. How long did it take you to get into his pants, anyway?"

"Ty—" Mark begins to object, but Alice interrupts him.

"You know, it's great that you're so protective of your friend," she says fiercely, "But I wasn't trying to take advantage of him. I don't sleep with musicians – I find they have a tendency to be obnoxious dicks."

I notice Mark is fighting back a grin, and I find myself glancing up at Alice in wonder. Very few people have the balls to stand up to Tyler. He has an extremely energetic, contagious personality, but most people tend to shy away from his bluntness.

"Whatever you say," Ty says, his tone making it clear that he's not convinced.

Alice sighs, falling silent. She rubs at her forehead, adjusting her position on my lap without even acknowledging me. Though I want to believe her when she says she didn't go with Edward to try and take advantage of him, I'm still suspicious of her motives. You don't come across a lot of people in this business that are willing to help you out if there's nothing in it for them. But maybe it's possible that she's just as lonely as he is.

When we get back to the hotel, Tyler and Mark help Edward out of the cab as I pay the driver. Ed's slightly more coherent, shaking off their help as he gets to his feet in the icy parking lot, staggering towards the bus as the guys flank him. He makes it a few feet before he pukes again.

"Get him on the bus," I tell the guys, wondering if the disgust I feel translates into my expression. "I'll go get your bags and check us out." We've got to get on the road, especially if snow keeps up all the way to Frankfurt. I look around and find that Alice has disappeared somewhere, and I shrug to myself as I head for the front door. What a strange girl.

Jamie's waiting for me in the lobby with our bags, looking more put off by the whole ordeal than anything else. "What the –" he begins, but I silence him with a look. He glares back at me and I feel this sudden ache, realizing that I fucking miss Garrett more than anything right now. He'd know what to say to make this all okay. He'd be the one that would be able to talk some sense into Edward. He'd be the one that would remind me to stop taking my bad mood out on the guys. He'd be the one that would be able to smooth-talk the pants off the exec and producer and put this whole mess behind us.

He'd be the one that made sure we'd never get into a mess like this to begin with.

Garrett's the reason I got into this business in the first place. Emmett and I moved from Forks to Seattle after high school, and ended up renting an apartment with some shaggy-haired hippie drummer named Garrett Anderson. When Gare and I dropped out of U-Dub after one poorly executed semester, we spent a lot of time hanging around the bars, making friends with the local musicians. Garrett free-lanced a little, working as a Session Drummer in a couple of small studios and keeping rhythm at open-mic nights on his days off. I got a job working security at Showbox, and made a lot of connections that year. I might have only had a semester of Business – practically nothing in comparison to other managers I was making friends with – but I figured out pretty quickly how the music industry worked.

The following year, when Tyler, Edward, and Mark graduated and, following in Edward's big brother's footsteps, decided to head out to Seattle, Garrett started jamming with them for real. BVK was drummer-less and really fucking good. Gare was the one who convinced me that they were for real, and that I had what it took to manage a band. He was the one who insisted I stay with the band after they signed their contract with the label. He's the reason I'm here.

And I'm the reason he's not.

The thing about Edward is, he doesn't realize that he's not the only one who had to break someone's heart to be here.

I lost my best friend over this, plain and simple. Things between us will never go back to the way they were, and I knew it would end this way from the moment I heard the news. I can't go back and change it, but I know I'll spend the rest of my time making sure I never have to make a phone call like that again.

"The bus is waiting around back," I tell Jamie, a little more sharply than I intend to. "Get this stuff loaded."

Jamie nods shortly, his jaw set in anger, but he heaves a couple of bags over his shoulder and disappears through the doors and into the snow. He's not used to this yet, looking after his own shit, toting equipment and luggage around. His last band made it pretty big for a while before they, like so many bands do, eventually faded into obscurity. He doesn't say it, but I know he feels he's already paid his dues. Too bad I have no patience leftover for his attitude today.

I let out a long sigh, dragging the rest of the luggage behind me as I make my way to the front counter to check us out. I'm leaning up against the desk, signing papers and double-checking the numbers when I feel someone come up next to me. I glance over to see Alice watching me, her chin in her hand as she leans against the counter beside me.

"How's Edward doing?" she asks softly, and I shrug in response, scribbling my name at the bottom of one of the papers.

"Probably sleeping it off," I say gruffly and I clear my throat before I continue, "The guys are watching him. If they didn't have a show tonight…" My voice trails off, mostly because I don't know how I was going to finish that sentence. If they didn't have a show tonight, would I really drag him to a hospital? Would I get him on the next flight to Seattle, so he can be with Bella and the baby? Would I lock him in his room and make him deal with his shit like an adult? Would anything be any different? I shake my head. I don't even know anymore.

"He needs a doctor," Alice says firmly.

I laugh bitterly. "He needs a therapist."

"Yeah, that too," she says. "Look, we're opening for you in Frankfurt tonight. My bus is just loading up. Would it be weird if I rode with you guys? I just don't think I'd be able to relax without knowing if he's all right."

"He's fine," I say, though I really don't know if it's true. "And your concern is sweet, but Edward's taken. Kind of."

"My concern is strictly platonic," she insists.

"Is there really such a thing?"

She rolls her eyes. "Did you not hear that I don't date musicians? He seemed like a good guy, when he was coherent."

"He is," I say softly, shuffling the papers to the clerk across the desk. "A great guy, actually."

"So?"

"So you're sure you really want to spend the next five hours on a bus with a bunch of hung-over dudes? Things are a little tense right now."

She raises her eyebrows. "Trust me, I can handle it." Judging by the way she dealt with Tyler, I can't help but believe her.

"All right," I say, facing her as I wait for the clerk to run the credit card I've given her. I glance at my watch. "We're taking off in… seven minutes. Don't be late."

"Seven minutes?" she repeats.

"Enough time for a piss and a smoke," I say, feeling the first smile of the day creeping on my face. She returns the smile, and I realize then, despite the smudged make-up and dark circles under her eyes, just how pretty she is. She's pretty in the way that's not obvious at first, but once you see it…

I stop that train of thought before it can begin, and start fidgeting with some loose change in my pocket.

"See you in seven minutes, then." Alice starts walking backwards, away from me. Before she turns she adds, "Black Velvet King guy."

My grin grows, and I take my credit card back from the clerk without looking. I gesture to my watch. "You're wasting time. Six-and-half minutes now, Cultess singer chick."

She flips me off before she disappears around the corner. As I laugh to myself, two things cross my mind. First, I realize that despite having possibly one of the shittiest mornings of my life, I'm suddenly feeling lighter than I have in months. And second, I think: oh, crap.

.x.


A/N: Just to be clear - I'm not trying write Jasper as a villain, but at the same time he's certainty not faultless. He's just a kid trying to figure it all out... But, yeah. Obviously everyone will have their own opinion, so lemme know what you think.

Part 2 of "2006" should be finished up soon. Thanks so much for reading Part One! I've had so much fun giving life to storylines that existed in my brain, but didn't fit into the chapters of Black Velvet Kings.